Social Gaming Roundup: Xbox Live, iPad, Valve, and More

Xbox Live’s Virtual Game Room Launches – A while back, Microsoft announced more social improvements for its Xbox Live platform with the plan for a virtual Game Room. It went live this week, offering people the chance to play retro games from 1970s and 1980s arcades. This includes classic titles from Atari, Konami, and even Intellivision. Of course, like their brick and mortar counterparts, the arcade machines require some coin to play, $0.50, though if users wish to keep the game, they can buy it for $3 to $5. Users are also be able to build their own custom arcade, and issue friend challenges complete with avatar-taunting customization.

App Store Allows App Gifting – Spotted a few days ago by Rana Sobhany, the popular concept of gifting music on iTunes has now, finally, been brought to the App Store. Users can now, in addition to adding apps to a wish list or telling friends about them, actually click an option called “Gift This App.” Unfortunately, there does not seem to be a way to do this from the iPhone or iPod Touch… yet.

Ukash Expands in South America – Thursday, the pay-by-voucher service known as Ukash expanded its global borders — into Bolivia. This brings the total number of countries, in which Ukash is available in, to 30. Now, customers within Bolivia will be able to purchase Ukash vouchers, valued at $20, $50, and $100, from Deligiro terminals in the cities of La Paz, Santa Cruz, Sucre, and Cochabamba.

[via Virtual Goods News]

Verizon Enters into Virtual Goods Payments – Earlier this week, mobile carrier Verizon Wireless partnered with the online payments firm, Danal, to become yet another cellular provider to offer a mobile payment service. Aimed specifically at virtual goods transactions, customers of Verizon will now be able to purchase digital goods from participating websites and have the cost added on to their monthly bill. However, the maximum purchase will be limited to $25.

Early Numbers iPad Apps – Though the iPad isn’t available to the public yet, mobile analytics company, Flurry is already releasing some interesting statistics on the current apps testing for Apple’s new device. Evidently, the type of application seeing the most testing is games, at a whopping 44%. Second to that comes books, at 14%, followed by social networking at 7%.

[image via Bloomberg Business Week]

Leaked iPad Apps – made another interesting find about the device. Apparently, when using Apple’s web interface for iTunes, it is possible to find a boatload of Apple-approved iPad applications that are marked as “HD,” and in some cases, “XL.” Currently, such games include the following:

  • Ammoin HD
  • Azkend HD
  • Flight Control HD
  • Grind HD
  • HD Recovery
  • Labyrinth 2 HD
  • NBA Hotshot HD
  • Numba HD
  • Plants vs. Zombie HD
  • Sparkle HD
  • Worms HD

Of course, it isn’t actually possible to download any of these applications, and their visibility will likely be removed very soon; if they haven’t been already.

Web Programs Saterize Social Games – Facebook Game Idea Generator and Progress Wars honor the popularity of social games through ridicule. While the former app randomly generates generic, yet amusing, social titles such as Vampire Plant or Pirate City, the latter is much more in-depth, poking fun at the basic social RPG concept of clicking the “Do Mission” button and watching your level number increase. In the epic journey that is Progress Wars, players have the ultimate task of clicking “Perform Mission” and complete daring tasks such as killing silk traders, growing people, or stealing Chinese merchant ships as their level progression bar grows.

PlaySpan Partners with Heatwave Interactive – Last week we touched on the hip-hop social game, Platinum Life from Heatwave Interactive. This week, the developer and payment service provider, PlaySpan have teamed up to integrate the latter company’s payment services into the growing social game. In the title, players will rise from a musical nobody to a platinum hip-hop star, and will encounter artists such as Ludacris, Omarion, DJ Holiday, and more. It is these celebrity appearances and likenesses that have garnered the most publicity for the title.

Valve Announces Virtual Goods Transactions – Popular mainstream game developer and publisher, Valve announced this week that Steam will be getting some new toys in the form of micropayment support. Now, users will be able to make in-game purchases via whatever billing method is used for Steam account (usually through credit cards). Unfortunately, none of the games on Steam contain virtual goods, yet, but the service will still be usable for the buying of downloadable content and full games.